Alistair Morrison, MA (Stockholm, Sweden), Coordinator of Global Water Governance Projects, United Nations Development Program.
Sharon interviewed Mr. Morrison, who was in Stockholm, Sweden, attending World Water Week. He is involved with the International Water Institute in Stockholm and has traveled all over the world to water problem areas such as Pakistan and Mozambique.
He states that the key risk in floods is sanitation and water borne diseases such as cholera. The situation in Pakistan is made much worse because Al Qaeda won’t let foreign aid workers in. So the biggest problem is not collecting or organizing aid but delivering it on the ground to the neediest people.
World Water Week has developed what they call “Millennium Development Goals.” The objective is to halve the number of people with unsatisfactory water, which is now over one billion out of a world population of 6.7 billion. Five million people die annually from poor sanitation.
There was some discussion of tube wells, which are inexpensive and less prone to contamination. Alistair noted that in areas without electric without power, especially Africa, they are now installing “round-about” pumps on wells, powered by a children’s playground merry-go-round. When the children play, the pump pumps.
In many areas of the world, women and children spend 5 to 6 hours a day carrying water, time that could be used far more productively. And often, the water is not safe. It has been suggested that with a simple faucet at every door, societies could be transformed, education improved, the status of women elevated, and disease and infant mortality reduced.
According to Morrison, water and sanitation are the #1 global problem. For every dollar invested in sanitation, there is a nine-fold return in health, productivity, economic development, tourism and fisheries. In the nation of Liberia, which has 3 million people, the entire investment of the national government in development of sanitation facilities is $25,000.
Earth has the water, Sharon notes. And it could be there forever. But water and sanitation must be a priority and never taken for granted.
In Pakistan, there is enough water but it is dirty because of cultural influences. In many countries, water policy laws are adequate but not enforced.
Not polluting in the first place is far less expensive than cleaning up after.
What is Morrison’s vision for the world, with respect to water? Improved access to safe water and sanitary facilities, one of the Millennium goals, could produce a tremendous leap forward. The solution is not complicated or even that expensive, says Morrison, but it requires education, commitment and prioritizing.
He has seen children die in hospitals because they did not have clean water.
And after the water problem is solved? People can make bed nets to protect against malaria. Or spend more time with their children. In the US, many poor seniors do not have good water.
In England, the Thames River was cleaned up only when the smell began to bother members of the House of Parliament.
In China, there has been tremendous progress. China has some very moist areas, some extremely dry areas and huge rivers flowing down from the Himalayas. Their reliance on dams creates other problems but it is an important step.
In Japan, water is a high priority and has been for decades. They are also doing well. The Japanese have a long history of proactive and intensive management.
In Indonesia, three years after the tsunami, there are still a million homeless, with inadequate water, sanitation, shelter, food or medical care. Cholera is rampant. Relief needs to be sustained for many years.
Sweden has an outstanding water management infrastructure and the Stockholm Water Prize is a highly coveted global award.
World Water Week is an annual meeting in Stockholm of 2,500 water professionals who conduct meetings and seminars, and give reports for improving the world’s water supply.